Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Greatest Gifts

Christmas is just two days away, and I've been thinking about people who have brought great gifts to this world. Not many people know it, but some of the most wonderful gifts have been passed on to us by men and women who have struggled with mental illness.

Think about how diminished this world would be if it had not been for Billy Joel, Abraham Lincoln, Agatha Christie, Mozart, Vincent Van Gogh, Florence Nightingale, Jane Pauley, Robin Williams, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, Isaac Newton, Darryl Strawberry and many, many others. Do a Google search for a more complete list. You will be surprised. All of these people have brought their own personal gifts for the rest of us to enjoy, in spite of their mental health struggles.

My Most Memorable Christmas

It was the December of 1959, and I was 10 years old. That was the year that my Dad had a back operation and money was very tight at our house. Occasionally, my father and I would go to downtown Oklahoma City and walk the streets doing our style of "window-shopping." Probably my favorite store was Andy Andersons. They had all of the "toys" that any boy or man could want. Andersons had a jaw-dropping selection of knives. Even today, knives of all kinds capture my interest

As Dad and I looked at the many glass cases of knives, we were both drawn to the same one. It was a large pocket-knife with stag-horn handles. The two blades were about 4" long, and it was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen. Evidently, my father felt the same way. We decided that we would both ask Santa for this one very special gift. Santa was my Mom.

Next week my mother and I went downtown to get that knife for my Dad. I was so excited that I could barely keep the "secret." I just knew that Dad would faint with surprise as he and I both got what we wanted.

That year, our family went to Grammer and Papa's house in the country. All of my aunts and uncles and cousins were gathering for the big celebration. On Christmas eve, we were all crammed into the little farm house living room. Everyone was about to burst from eating candy and cookies and fruit and nuts. Naturally, all of us kids wanted to open a present. After much begging, we were given permission to open only one present. I knew which one I wanted.

As the kids circled the Christmas tree, each of us selected the gift that we thought would have our most wished for item. I saw a small package and as I reached for it, my Dad said, "No, Stormy, take this one." Now that present wasn't shaped anything like a knife, but I did as my Dad suggested.

Each of the cousins opened their gift in from of everyone else. We took turns. It was so hard to wait. When I ripped the paper off, there was a!! Not a knife...a book!!

What made it worse was that I recognized this book. I had pulled it from our bookshelf and looked at it many times. Then it dawned on me that my parents didn't have enough money that year to buy me a present. I loved my Mom and Dad, so I didn't want to show my disappointment. I looked sadly at Dad and said, "Thank you, Daddy." Then I burst into tears and ran out of the house. I was so deeply disappointed.

In a minute, I heard my Dad's voice calling me. He had the book in his hand. "Stormy, did you look inside," he asked. "No." "Well, open it up." With tear-wet fingers I opened the book. There was a big hole cut out of the middle, and in the hole was my knife! I really cried then. My Dad hadn't let me down. I knew then that he really would give me the very best gift that he could. As proud as I was to put that beautiful knife in my pocket, it couldn't even come close to the excitement I felt the next morning. When we all opened the rest of our presents, my father held his most-wished-for knife in his hand. We looked at each other across the room, and we both had the silliest and happiest grin of anyone in the house.

The Very Best Gift Of My Life

It was a long time coming. I really wasn't ready for it until I had turned twenty-seven. This gift had been waiting for me for a long time. I probably wouldn't have appreciated it in my youth. Now, I could understand that it was to be more precious to me than my wonderful knife. It has truly been the gift that goes on giving.

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. ...God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (Romans 5:6, 8 and John 3:16)."

I don't know about you, my friends, but every day my heart celebrates that most wonderful gift. Sometimes there is even a silly and happy grin on my face.


Give Him thanks over and over again.


MICHAEL said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You

Stormy Joe Ward said...

Micky, thank you so much for sharing your struggles with all of us. I think that one tremendous blessing to me has been the knowledge that I'm not all alone in my trials.